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The Widening Gap in Dementia Care and One Woman’s Crusade to Address it

Posted on June 13, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), someone in the world develops dementia every 3 seconds. An estimated 50 million people had dementia in 2017. That number is expected to grow to 75 million people by 2030.

In 2017, Dr. Anitha Rao, a board certified geriatric neurologist and CEO of Neurocern, published a paper that highlighted the uneven distribution of trained dementia specialists in the United States. Her paper pointed to 20 States that were “Dementia Deserts” where there was insufficient access to specialists given the number of Dementia patients. Without intervention, this gap in Dementia care will only get wider.

While practicing at UCSF’s renowned Memory & Aging Center, Rao noticed two alarming trends:

  1. The time between booking an appointment and the actual appointment continued to grow
  2. More and more undiagnosed patients were coming in to the Center

ADI estimates that only 20-50% of dementia cases are recognized and documented in primary care. With little training and few resources available to patients, primary care doctors are reticent to tell patients they may have Dementia. Read this excellent, and frightening, article by Alice Park in Time on this topic.

An unfortunate consequence of this delay in diagnosis, was that Rao often had the unenviable job of telling patients and their families that the disease had progressed beyond the early-stage interventions that might have made a difference. Worse, she found that many patients were taking medications that were ineffective or harmful given their particular type of Dementia (there are many types of Dementia including Alzheimer’s, Lewy Bodies, Vascular, Frontotemporal, etc).

It was around this time that Rao came across two siloed data sets. One was the distribution of neurologists by state. The other was a data set of Dementia patients by state by year (including future years). She mashed the data together and what resulted was an eye-opening map of Dementia Deserts. The state of Wyoming, for example, was particularly ill-prepared to handle the expected number of Dementia patients. With very few Dementia specialists practicing in the state, patients residing there would likely have poorer outcomes due to lack of access. Rao’s paper has since been used by state agencies to lobby for more training and funding for neurological resources.

Rao, however, didn’t stop at simply identifying the problem. She wanted to do something about it and Neurocern was the result. After analyzing the problem she zeroed in on two specific issues: access to care and the lack of expert Dementia advice for patients. Here’s how the system works:

  • Patients and/or family build a brain profile in the application by answering questions (think a Myers-Briggs assessment but for your brain)
  • Based on the brain profile, the system comes up with recommendations for what can be done at home to keep seniors safe
  • Recommendations include:
    • How to gently convince someone to wash themselves (patients suffering from Dementia usually refuse to bathe)
    • How to help patients not to slip in the bathroom
    • The signs to look for if the patient needs insulin. Some Dementia patients pace the room which means they burn their sugar faster than normal and if they also have Diabetes they will need insulin sooner

“Neurocern is a cross between a neurologist and a social worker,” explains Rao. “It mirrors how my sessions with patients would go. For the first hour I would sit and listen to the family’s story. I’d use that information to build a profile. In the second hour I would review a care plan with the patient and their family. I would make sure they had things they could do at home to help reduce the impact of the Dementia. For example, if a patient suffers from, hallucinations, one of the care recommendations would be to cover mirrors in the home as they are triggers for hallucinations.”

Neurocern currently is capable of generating 5,000,000 care plans based on individual attributes discerned from the brain profile. Plans can be customized by the end-user.

The application has been piloted by a provider organization and Rao is currently in pilot discussions with a number of payers. “There is definitely a financial incentive to help patients better manage Dementia,” says Rao. “Dementia patients are 20% more likely to be readmitted and they have longer than average length of stays (ALOS). Dementia patients who have suffered a stroke have, on average, 38% higher costs. It’s the same story with Dementia + diabetes or other chronic conditions. On top of this is the fact that many healthcare organizations do not have the Dementia-trained staff to care for these patients. Neurocern can help to bridge that gap.”

Dementia is quickly becoming the leading cause of death around the world. It is already #1 in England and Wales and is the top cause of death for Australian women. In many other countries Dementia trails only heart disease. Without adequate training, resources and funding, our healthcare system runs the risk of being overwhelmed. We will need products like Neurocern and people like Rao to ensure the problem gets attention and that patients as well as providers have tools at their fingertips to help mitigate Dementia’s impact.

Rao will be presenting on a panel at next week’s AHIP conference – Innovate with Purpose: Technology Tools of Change alongside 3 other healthcare entrepreneurs.

HITExpo ThankTanks Spur Online Discussion on the Nature of EHRs, Innovation & Patient Experience

Posted on June 7, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Last week at the inaugural 2018 Health IT Expo (#HITExpo), we kicked things off with three ThinkTank sessions:

  1. Going Beyond EHRs –
  2. Practical Innovation –
  3. Communication & Patient Engagement –

These ThinkTanks were live-streamed via YouTube and were meant to engage members of the #HITMC, #HITsm, #hcldr and other online communities who could not be with us in person in New Orleans. Looking back over the tweets I believe it would be safe to say: mission accomplished.

The online discussion around the ThinkTanks was very rich and involved many different perspectives. During ThinkTank 1 Jim Tate had a keen bit of insight to share based on a comment made by panelist Shahid Shah of Netspective Media:

This was quickly followed by another interesting statement from Shah:

An interesting suggestion in ThinkThank 1 came from Dr. Fatima Paruk, Chief Medical Officer, Population Health at Allscripts – that it was never too late to get physicians involved in EHR optimization given that they are one of the main users of EHR systems. This was especially relevant given how much EHR frustration contributes to physician burnout.

Jeremy Coleman, one of the HITExpo’s social media ambassadors did an expert job at distilling a 5min during ThinkTank 1 into a single tweet:

The most interesting comment in ThinkTank 1 was made by Justin Campbell of Galen Healthcare. He suggested that one way to go beyond the EHR was to use the audit log information to identify workflow bottlenecks, training opportunities and UI improvements.

The second ThinkTank generated a spirited discussion amongst the panelists and with the online audience when the topic of blockchain technology was brought up. It started when John Lynn made the following statement:

Jared Jeffery from KLAS Research then immediately followed up his tweet with this humorous counter-point:

I agree with both John and Jared. The last thing we need is over-inflated hype around blockchain in healthcare. The technology itself holds promise but as an enabler of other technologies and processes. Simply slapping blockchain on existing processes is not going to yield the innovation healthcare needs. We need something more. The good news is that some pioneering organizations and HealthIT companies are experimenting with blockchain which will hopefully lead to incremental improvements.

Experimentation and the willingness to do something was on the mind of Jerry Cade – one of the panelist in ThinkTank 2. He had a poignant warning for all of us in healthcare:

In my opinion the most practical piece of advice of the day was shared by Shahid Shah during ThinkTank 2. It’s certainly something I’m going to pay more attention to in the future:

Your truly had the opportunity to moderate ThinkTank 3 and it was a blast. We had an amazing set of panelists that included nurses, HealthIT insiders, industry experts and the voice of the patient. It resulted in a robust discussion on the nature of patient experience.

Grace Jaime of Oneview Healthcare shared a keen insight which triggered a round of discussion on the need to clearly measure patient experience and communication effectiveness – If you can’t measure something, you can’t improve:

Grace Cordovano, professional patient advocate, then had this to add:

During ThinkTank 3 Sarah Bennight of Stericycle Communication Solutions made an interesting observation about patient advocacy and how it could be modeled after a legal precedent:

If you didn’t have the chance to catch the ThinkTanks live, I’d encourage you to watch the recordings (links above). The sessions were filled with valuable insights and practical advice that you can use right away. It was a lot of fun to participate in these ThinkTanks and I am definitely looking forward to doing more in the future.

In closing I think this tweet summed up the overall sentiment (from friend Ashley Dauwer at MEDITECH):

Bringing Their Valuable Experience to Healthcare Wasn’t Black & White for Zebra Technologies

Posted on May 30, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Earlier this year I wrote about the strong contingent of non-healthcare companies that exhibited at HIMSS18. Ever since then I have been curious to find out more about these companies – especially how they adopted their solutions to healthcare and how as outsiders they view the industry as a whole.

One of the companies that caught my eye was Zebra Technologies, a company that has a long history of providing mobility solutions for retail, manufacturing and government. In retail, for example, Zebra provides devices and software that consolidates inventory data from multiple source systems and delivers that date in real-time to sales associates. Not only does this result in better customer service, it also accelerates revenues for retailers. Zebra’s clients include retail giants Target and Walmart.

I recently sat down with Chris Sullivan, Global Healthcare Practice Lead at Zebra, to get his take on what the impact a company like Zebra could have in healthcare and what challenges there were bringing the company’s solutions into healthcare. Below is an abridged transcript of our conversation.

Is it an advantage or disadvantage being a healthcare “outsider”?

Being a company that has a long history outside of healthcare is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

The advantage is that we have tired and true solutions that work in other industries that in some ways are more demanding than what we see in healthcare. For example in auto manufacturing, tracking assets and inventory in the supply chain is extremely difficult. There aren’t nearly as many moving parts in a healthcare supply chain. Because we have solutions that can handle this type of complexity, it means we have an advantage when we take those solutions to healthcare.

Another advantage is our deep technical knowledge when it comes to mobility. We know what it takes to roll out a truly enterprise-class mobility solution and that gives us an advantage over companies that only have experience in the healthcare field.

The disadvantage is that as an organization it’s taken us time to build up our healthcare acumen and in the past we may have missed some of the nuances of healthcare. Just getting to know the acronyms and the terminology has taken time.

How did you address this gap?

As a company we had become more humble when it came to healthcare. We had to admit to ourselves that we had a lot to learn and that we had acknowledge that the way we need to do things a little differently in healthcare. There’s a very fine line between brining valuable expertise from other industries in a way that doesn’t override healthcare customers when they want to do something differently.

Our CEO and other senior leaders set the example. They recognized the gap and invested in bringing healthcare “insiders” onto the team. That’s why I’m here. They also invested in bringing the voice of healthcare customers into Zebra’s operations and processes. We now have a Customer Advisory Board where we vet product ideas and adjust based on their valuable feedback.

What was the most surprising thing that Zebra learned about Healthcare?

For the non-healthcare folks at Zebra, I think the complexity of healthcare workflows was a really big surprise. It’s a lot more complex than people realize. There are so many nuances and variables that just don’t exist in any other industry.

I think the magnitude of the opportunity in healthcare also took many by surprise. Not only is opportunity within the healthcare supply chain, but there is also plenty of opportunity for Zebra to help with care delivery.

Some were surprised to learn at how many barriers exist between patients and clinicians. There is just so much that gets in the way of caring for patients. There’s all the administration, documentation, collecting data from multiple sources and looking for assets. People became clinicians because they wanted to care for patients and somehow we’ve got them doing admin work.

What opportunities does Zebra see in healthcare?

We see an opportunity to help healthcare organizations improve their workflows. Specifically we see an opportunity for our technologies to eliminate unnecessary administrative and non-value-add steps for caregivers. By streamlining the workflow, quality would improve, the organization would become more efficient and thus require less resources, the patient experience would improve and care would be safer. There’s a lot of wasted time and resources in healthcare. We can help with that.

We also see an opportunity to bring true enterprise-level mobility solutions to healthcare. Up to this point, healthcare has had experience with smartphones and tablets, but those are consumer devices designed for individual consumers. They aren’t enterprise-class devices and they have inherent limitations in a healthcare setting. For example, they can’t be cleaned and disinfected very easily. They are difficult to secure. Managing upgrades is a nightmare. Plus smartphone cameras are not the same as industrial-strength barcode scanners which are common in enterprise devices.

There’s a KLAS report that does a great job at explaining how the inadequacies of the iPhone in healthcare has given rise to companies like Zebra.

Can you give me an example of enterprise-mobility work you have done in other industries that you are now applying to healthcare?

Sure. We have experience with many other verticals in addition to healthcare. One example would be the work we do for Ford Motor Company. As you know, Ford has a highly automated production line. It’s very expensive to have that line shut down. Zebra helps to tag all the equipment in those facilities so that production managers know exactly where their assets and inventory are located at all times. This is critical to ensuring that there is never a delay in getting the right asset to the right place at the right time.

We’re adopting this same know-how and associated technology to healthcare. It’s really vital to know where all your assets are in a hospital – from IV poles to beds to carts. The same applies to tracking high-dollar consumables like implantable devices. It’s really expensive to have doctors and nurses waiting around for the right equipment or the right medication to arrive – which is analogous to the work we do with Ford.

What advice would you give to other companies looking to enter healthcare?

Be humble. Don’t assume that because your solution worked in another industry that it can be plopped into healthcare as-is.

Play nice with others. There’s a big ecosystem in healthcare and you have to learn how to work together with those other players. Healthcare is a team sport.

Origin Story: Paul M Black, CEO of Allscripts – Deep Roots and Optimism in Healthcare

Posted on May 24, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

This is first in a new series of articles. Over the coming weeks and months I will be publishing the origin stories of interesting, inspiring people in healthcare. These men and women come from all walks of life. Some are titans in the industry, others are leading grass-roots efforts. All are making an impact on healthcare.

As a self-professed comic-book geek, I am fascinated by origin stories – the account or back-story that reveals how someone became who they are today. Origin stories add to the overall narrative and give reasons for a person’s intentions. Knowing someone’s origin stories can give clues to their future actions.

Kicking off this series is the origin story of Allscripts CEO Paul Black. Allscripts, based in Chicago, serves over 45,000 physician practices and 2,500 hospitals around the world with their EHR systems and other Healthcare IT solutions. The company has a rich history of mergers. Early on they merged with Misys and Eclipsys. More recently, the company has acquired McKesson’s Health IT business and Practice Fusion.

It is common knowledge that Mr. Black has a long history in healthcare. Prior to becoming CEO of Allscripts in December 2012, he spent 13 years as Chief Operating Office at Cerner (an Allscripts rival). He has also served as an advisor to healthcare companies through his work at New Mountain Capital and Genstar Capital.

What is not common knowledge is how far back Black’s history with healthcare actually goes. When he was just 5 years old, Black accidentally consumed weed poison that was in an unlabeled vial. Luckily his father, who was the Director of the Pharmacy Department at the local hospital took him to the VA emergency room right away. As a healthcare professional his father knew that the VA had just purchased an artificial kidney machine – the very device needed to treat this type of poisoning. Spoiler Alert: Black made a full recovery thanks to his father’s quick actions and the knowledgeable staff at the VA.

To understand how lucky Paul Black was, you have to remember that back then, there were no toxicologists, no poison control centers, no detailed chemical labels and very little knowledge of poison treatments. In fact, it wasn’t until 1953 that the first poison hotline was established in Chicago by Louis Gdalman R.Ph and Edward Press MD [source: Forging a Poison Prevention and Control System 2004].

Black’s poisoning incident led his father to establish an Iowa poisoning hotline so that people in his home state could find out what to do in a poisoning situation. His work eventually led to the creation of the Iowa Poison Information Control Center – an entity that is still saving lives today.

“My father was always working on ways to improve healthcare,” recalls Black. “He built a machine that would help ensure that the right medication would be administered to the right patient at the right time. It was basically a precursor to a Pyxis machine. He got involved in computers in the early stages and was always looking for ways to use systems (whether physical or software) to solve problems in healthcare.”

Clearly the apple did not fall far from the tree.

Early in his career, Black worked at IBM where he learned “a lot about systems, software and hardware.” But more importantly, it was his time at IBM that ignited his passion for healthcare.

“I just felt good whenever I worked with hospitals and healthcare clients,” explains Black. “It was clear that working with them had a direct impact on care and on individuals in their care.”

Black moved on from IBM and joined Cerner, then an up-and-coming healthcare systems maker. There, he progressed steadily through the ranks until ultimately becoming Chief Operating Officer in 2005. Black retired from Cerner in 2007 and served in a number of advisory/board positions until he was named CEO of Allscripts in 2012.

I asked Black why he chooses to stay in healthcare.

“It’s pretty simple actually. We aren’t done yet,” states Black. “My grandfather was born in 1888 and during his lifetime we went from horse-and-buggy on dirt roads to a full interstate system with fast cars and a railroad system with fast trains. We also went from having to read your news in a newspaper to wireless radio. He even saw us land on the moon. That was an incredible amount of progress for a single lifetime. I would argue that in my lifetime we are going to see a similar leap with just as many innovations, discoveries, and life saving technologies. That’s why I stay. Healthcare is going to be a fascinating industry for the next 20+ years. Plus there aren’t many industries where you get to help the people that save lives.”

Black went on to say that this is a time in healthcare when strong leadership will be required to ensure we make the right decisions for the benefit of the many vs the few. He pointed at genomic testing as an example. Even though the cost of sequencing continues to drop, access to this type of technology and access to clinicians knowledgeable on how to interpret the results is not universal.

Access to care is a cornerstone of Black’s vision of a perfect healthcare system, something I asked him to describe during our conversation: “My perfect healthcare future is one where everyone has access to healthcare, not just people of means. It’s one where a payment mechanism has been figured out whereby a certain level of access is guaranteed as is a certain level of prevention.”

Black went on to say that this vision is not as far fetched as it may first sound: “My view is that there is enough money already in the healthcare system today to make this happen. If you add the dollars spent by every single player in the healthcare industry – governments, employers, patients, etc – it’s more than enough. We are at 18% GDP. It’s just not being spent efficiently.”

To reach his vision, Black feels we need to build a healthcare system where: “We get the diagnosis right the first time, there is no delay in treatment and there is active involvement from patients in their health.” The latter being the toughest challenge – motivating the average person to exercise more, eat better and make healthier lifestyle choices.

“We have to make it cool to be healthy,” says Black. “In fact we need the healthy equivalent of the Marlboro Man, which I know is an ironic and strange thing to say. But back in the day, EVERYONE wanted to be the Marlboro Man. He was what young men aspired to be like. We need the healthy equivalent to help motivate people to be more engaged in health.”

It is not surprising that Black sees Allscripts playing a significant role in making healthcare more efficient and effective. “Allscripts definitely has a role to play,” explained Black. “We will play that role by staying relevant in the healthcare industry. We have our core EHR products, but we also have four other product lines that are actually EHR-agnostic. We have our population health platform, dbMotion. We have our post-acute system, Netsmart. We have our precision medicine platform, 2bPrecise. And finally we have our consumer platform, FollowMyHealth. We will continue to push aggressively in these markets through innovation and acquisition to provide our clients with the solutions THEY NEED to deliver better care to patients.”

Allscript’s latest acquisition certainly fits with this acquire-functionality-that-clients-want strategy. On May 18th, the company acquired HealthGrid – a communication platform that delivers reminders, alerts and educational materials to patients via phone, text, and other electronic means. This functionality will be rolled into Allscript’s FollowMyHealth product line.

“I feel it’s our duty and obligation to automate the healthcare ‘shop floor’,” declares Black. “The groundwork had been laid with EHRs, but now it’s time to streamline workflows and leverage the data within these systems. We need to reduce the ‘shouting’ in healthcare (too many alarms). We need to improve User Interfaces so systems are easier to use. We need to reduce the documentation requirements on clinicians so they can go back to taking care of patients vs being data entry clerks. Computers should work for us, not the other way around.”

Reflecting on Black’s origin story you can see the thread of hope and optimism woven throughout. From his first (and positive) encounter with the healthcare system when he was 5 years old to watching his father use computers/machinery to try and improve patient care to the positive feelings he had while working with hospital clients at IBM – every experience brought him closer and closer to healthcare until he became part of the industry through his position at Cerner.

It gives me hope that an industry leader like Paul Black is optimistic about the future of healthcare. It’s exciting to learn that he is not just saying the right words, he is putting energy and investment behind them. It will be interesting to see how Allscripts will continue to “remain relevant” and be agile in the years ahead.

AHA Health Forum – A Valuable Potential Partner for HealthIT Companies

Posted on March 26, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

In the hyper-competitive HealthIT market, getting to your target audience within healthcare organizations is critical to success. Cutting through the noise and gatekeepers, however, is difficult. One effective strategy is to partner with an organization that has a trusted relationship with healthcare organizations and collaborate with them to leverage those connections.

The team at the AHA Health Forum has been helping companies for years do just that. I had the chance recently to sit down with Kathleen Wessel, Vice President of Business Development at AHA Health Forum. I asked her about the Forum and what recommendations she has for breaking through the noise in HealthIT.

Kathleen will be a panelist and a sponsor at the 2018 Healthcare IT Marketing & PR Conference.

Tell me about AHA Health Forum and the work it does.

Kathleen: Health Forum is a strategic business enterprise of the American Hospital Association, dedicated to providing insights, resources and innovative services to support our hospital members . This position makes us an indispensable resource for businesses seeking to engage the hospitals we serve.

Can you give an example of how a company might work with AHA Health Forum?

Kathleen: In addition to event sponsorships, conferences, and networking opportunities that connect you with the c-suite, we offer a level of program sophistication and service that isn’t seen elsewhere in the health care space. This includes opportunities such as multi-channel behavioral campaigns to nurture highly targeted audiences, trusted health care data to identify market opportunities, intimate executive events with attendees who have pain points aligned to a vendor’s solution, and lead assist programs to pre-qualify sales ready leads.

What are three things Health IT marketers should do to help identify and deliver messaging to hospital decision makers more effectively? 


  1. At a high level, educate yourself on latest health care trends and challenges. In account-based marketing, know what is important to the hospital or hospital system. Annual reports, press releases and other public information sources provide a good starting point for individual hospitals.
  2. A closer focus on data can help you learn more about your audience. Leveraging your own internal client data and trusted external health care industry data can lead to breakthrough thinking—helping you grow markets, uncover new opportunities, and can help sales engage in higher value conversations with prospects.
  3. This brings me to my next point. A solutions provider that knows its audience inside out can use this intel to make content that is relevant. As health care leaders face unprecedented change, they don’t just need any content, they need quality content and are looking for solutions.

How is Health IT marketing changing?

Kathleen: Marketers have their work cut out if they’re going to get their message and brand noticed by hospital leaders. In the age of content and information overload, to be heard, you have to be credible and intentional. Health care leaders pay attention to information coming from their peers and institutions they trust. This will require marketers to cultivate client champions and integrate their stories and voice into their marketing campaigns. Marketers would also be wise to make investments in co-branding with trusted associations.

Being a “partner” vs a “vendor” is something we hear a lot about in health care, what does that exactly mean? What makes a company a good partner? 

Kathleen: Vendors focus on why their solution is best in the category; and if the challenge doesn’t fit, a ‘vendor’ tells the client to change to accommodate their solution. In contrast, a partner understands what is important to the hospital and focuses on how their solution can help the hospital achieve its strategic objectives. A partner will work to adapt to a specific challenge. In addition, the hospital looks at the partner for thought leadership, as a trusted advisor who can help guide them through the changes and disruption taking place in the industry.

Strong Showing from Non-healthcare Technology Vendors on #HIMSS18 Exhibit Floor

Posted on March 9, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

The #HIMSS18 exhibit hall was proof of the growing trend of non-traditional healthcare companies entering the market. Along every aisle there were booths from consumer and B2B brands that are familiar outside the context of healthcare. There were mega-brands like:

  • Amazon
  • Cisco
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Oracle
  • Verizon
  • Salesforce

But it wasn’t just tech giants that made an appearance at #HIMSS18. Sprinkled throughout the exhibit hall were other organizations who were taking their products and expertise, honed in other industries and applying them to healthcare:

  • Zebra Technologies
  • Windstream
  • Pegasystems
  • Liaison Technologies
  • Microstrategies
  • Panasonic
  • OpenText

I found this second group of companies fascinating.

In recent weeks we have seen big announcement from companies like Apple and Amazon about their new healthcare initiatives. On a #hcldr tweetchat early last month, we solicited opinions in collaboration with HIMSS on whether the arrival of these companies was ultimately going to be good or bad for healthcare. The community’s reaction was one of “cautious exuberance”.

On one hand, many were very excited about the potential for these companies to spur innovation and improve user (aka patient) experiences. On the other hand many people brought forward concerns about how viable these companies could scale their healthcare initiatives.

Consider Amazon and Apple’s recent announcements. Both are working toward creating a private network of clinics that are available to staff that bypasses the traditional provider-payer ecosystem. The goal is to drive down healthcare costs for employees while simultaneously improving workforce efficiency. But both these tech giants have highly-skilled, highly-educated workforces and they both operate in a hyper-competitive talent market where health benefits could be a deciding factor. I’m not sure how this might scale to companies where wages are lower and competition is not as fierce. Would there be the same incentive?

It will be interesting to see how these do-it-yourself approaches work out in the long term. But what has me more excited are the non-traditional healthcare companies that are bringing their products and expertise from other industries to healthcare. Companies like Zebra Technologies (retail & transportation), Windstream (infrastructure & communications) and Pegasystms (financial technology) are quietly using their non-healthcare solutions to improve healthcare TODAY. This practical approach is exciting to see because of the immediate benefit to healthcare and because the solutions are proven.

Their outside-in perspective coupled with their significant resources is something that I will be watching closely in the months following HIMSS18.

*Windstream Enterprises, Pegasystems and Liaison Technologies are sponsors of Healthcare Scene.

Five Not-so-typical meetings at #HIMSS18

Posted on March 7, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

As the first day of the #HIMSS18 exhibit hall dawned, I had mentally prepared myself for a series of meetings where we would be discussing the product updates, client signings and releases of new thought-leadership content. Fortunately, the universe decided to throw a curveball and I ended up with no fewer than five meetings that were completely different than what I expected.

Meeting 1 – Nuance

I had the opportunity to sit down with Nuance at #HIMSS18. I wrote an earlier post about their #AI Marketplace and I fully expected to listen to an update on that effort plus learn details about the company’s recent announcement of a multi-year collaboration with Partners Healthcare. They surprised me by speaking instead about the importance of their work in the area of incidental findings.

Brenda Hodge, Chief Marketing Officer of Nuance Healthcare spoke passionately about the work that Nuance is doing to help ensure incidental findings are brought to the attention of primary care physicians. Through their AI prioritization algorithms and natural-language-processing capabilities, Nuance has plans to capture this potentially vital imaging information and highlight it so that the right clinical interventions can be applied sooner.

It was the fervor and fire with which Hodge spoke that was the not-so-typical part of our meeting. It was fun to share that moment with a kindred spirit, passionate about improving healthcare.

Meeting 2 – Voalte

The good folks at Voalte provided me the opportunity to do something I have never done at HIMSS – moderate a meetup. We assembled a fantastic group of panelist: @ShahidnShah @innonurse @drandrew76 and Angela Kauffman (from @Voalte) had a lively discussion about Physician Communications. The meetup was even better than I expected.

The conversation flowed easily. Online engagement was high. A good sized crowd gathered to listen. It was a fantastic way to start the day. We captured the meetup on video so watch for clips from the meetup on the Healthcare Scene YouTube channel once we recover from #HIMSSanity.

Meeting 3 – TigerConnect (Formerly Known as TigerText)

I stopped by for a quick chat with the team at TigerConnect – the company formally known as TigerText – to talk about their recent rebrand. This meeting was atypical of ones I have had at HIMSS because it was solely focused on their marketing rather than on their products. It was refreshing to have the chance to get a behind-the-scenes view of their recent rebranding initiative.

TigerText is a pioneer in the field of secure communications in hospitals and their brand had become well-established. Unfortunately the “Text” portion of their name was becoming a limitation as their company expanded into adjacent spaces and extended their platform’s capabilities. In just a few months, they made the decision to rebrand and executed it in time for #HIMSS18.

I’ll be writing a more in-depth piece on this after HIMSS, but felt it was worth mentioning because I have never had this type of frank, honest marketing conversation at HIMSS before.

Meeting 4 – Lenovo Health

I stopped by the Lenovo Health booth to see what new things were happening – especially since I had the chance to attend their HealthIT Think Tank event last year. I came for news and I ended up taking a selfie with a custom-made sign. It was energizing to just do something fun in their booth. It was 10 minutes of being creative and capturing a moment in their space. You can see how big our smiles are in the pictures we took.

Meeting 5 – Cerner

The team at Cerner reached out a few days ago and asked to get together. By pure chance, they suggested a time that had recently freed up on my calendar (one of the few open spots I had). I honestly did not read the request carefully before agreeing to it. I thought I was going to be part of a press briefing that was being broadcast. It turned out that the Cerner team wanted to me to be part of their onsite podcast.

We ended up have a wonderful conversation about Day 1 of the HIMSS18 exhibit hall. It was a free-flowing discussion that I was not expecting. You can listen to the podcast here.

It was so much fun that we continued chatting for 20min after we wrapped the recording. At the end I had the opportunity to officially welcome the Cerner podcasting/social media/marketing crew to #pinksocks. Like the Lenovo Health meeting earlier, it was a rare chance to create a lasting memory. I will not soon forget that #pinksocks gifting – the enthusiasm, surprise and good feeling was just incredible.

Day 1 takeaway – small moments, lasting memories

For me, Day 1 of the HIMSS18 exhibit hall was all about creating lasting memories from small moments. It wasn’t about the big splashy announcements, but the open/honest conversation. As I reflect on the day, I can’t help but smile at the how the stars aligned to give me a day at HIMSS that is the ideal we strive for in healthcare. Imagine if all across the healthcare ecosystem, clinicians were able to have small moments with patients that were open, honest, free-flowing as well as conversational and where both left the encounter feeling energized.

We need more days like this.

Procrastinator’s Guide to #HIMSS18 and Other Conferences

Posted on March 1, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

I have a confession to make. I have never actually managed to follow any of the popular advice that encourages people to prepare for HIMSS weeks in advance.

As I think back across the 12 HIMSS conferences I have attended, I can’t remember a single time when I started earlier than the week before (the only exception being booth logistics). I never reached out to people to pre-arrange meetings. I never looked at the session schedule more than 5 days before the conference. Even when I was in a sales and business development role, I always found myself scrambling with a week to go.

As I moved into Marketing roles, I did do a little more planning, but it was mostly to make sure the booth had power, carpet, etc. Inevitably I would start my personal HIMSS planning the week before the big event.

So if you find yourself in the same situation for #HIMSS18 (which starts next week) take heart. There is still time to maximize your HIMSS time. Here is my Procrastinator’s Guide to HIMSS18 (and other conferences as well). Enjoy.

Attend as many meetups as you can

Meetups are hands-down the most productive networking events at HIMSS. It doesn’t matter if it’s an official HIMSS meetup (usually held at HIMSS Spot or in the HIMSS Booth) or one that is hosted by a company. Meetups attract thought-leaders and key industry influencers. This is a double-bonus. Not only will you get the chance to connect with the experts leading the discussion, but they will draw in a big crowd of people which provides the opportunity for rich networking.

Do a quick search on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or even Google for “HIMSS18 meetup”. Find a meetup that matches your interests or is aligned with the product/service you offer and put it in your calendar. Another great starting point is this list of meetups that John Lynn put together for #HIMSS18.

Arrive to the meetup 10min before it starts, smile and meet as many people as you can. When you hear an interesting idea, turn to the person next to you and comment on it. Don’t worry, audience participation is encouraged at meetups (it’s not a panel presentation after all). Even better, ask a good question or offer up an interesting fact.

At each meetup it is possible to connect with 5-10 people. Who says you need to pre-arrange all your HIMSS meetings?

Search for sessions where your target audience will be

If you are in a Sales or Marketing role one of the best ways to meet people who might be interested in the products/services you offer is to attend related sessions. Use the HIMSS Session Search feature on the conference website or in the HIMSS app and look for educational sessions on topics that align. For example: “remote patient monitoring” or “care coordination” or “physician communication”.

Attend the session and get to know as many of your fellow audience members as you can. In Marketing-speak, anyone in the audience has just self-identified themselves as an early stage buyer. Mine for the gold!

Pro Tip I: Arrive early. Preferably as the prior session is ending so that you can get in and secure a good seat.

Pro Tip II: If you are interested in connecting with someone from a specific organization. Use the session search on the HIMSS website and type in the name of the organization. Anybody speaking from that organization will appear in the results. Hang out after the presentation for your chance to connect.

Download interesting presentations ahead of time

One of the toughest challenges when building slide decks and blog posts is finding relevant statistics. Luckily HIMSS presentations are full of useful facts and figures. Search for sessions on topics that interest you or that you sell into and download the presentation. Voila your research is done.

Plan on visiting with industry media

If you are a small or medium-sized company, it is almost impossible to get the attention of editors, reporters and writers at healthcare publications at HIMSS. This is my first year attending HIMSS as a member of the press and I can tell you first-hand that there is literally no way I can fit another meeting into my calendar and it was filled a couple of weeks ago. As a result I have dozens of unread media-request emails that I simply cannot get to.

If connecting with media is on your HIMSS to-do list, then use the HIMSS Exhibitor Search feature to see if the particular publication has a booth in the exhibit hall. Be friendly to the business development folks in the booth and they will help get you in touch with the writer/editor that you are trying to connect with.

Pro Tip III: If you REALLY want to connect with a particular person at a publication, you can try heading to the HIMSS Press Room and asking for them. The Press Room is the place that HIMSS sets aside for people to write their articles and conduct interviews. It’s also the unofficial place where media folks hang out when they have a lull in their schedule.

Pro Tip IV: Check out the New Media Meetup which Healthcare Scene organizes every year. The event attracts bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers and traditional media. It is a fantastic place to connect. This year’s event is sponsored by CareCognitics.

Team up with one of your clients and become their party agent

There is no shortage of evening events at HIMSS, especially when it is in Las Vegas. If you didn’t get a pre-HIMSS invitation, don’t worry (for years I never got a single invite and I still only get a handful). Many companies recruit attendees to their evening soirees during the conference itself. If you are a fellow vendor, however, it can sometimes be awkward to try and get into someone else’s event.

In the past I have teamed up with one of my clients (usually one I enjoy hanging out with) and I become their party “agent”. I grab a few of my client’s business card at the start of HIMSS and I carry them with me. When I see an interesting party I walk up and ask for an invitation for myself and my client. I drop their card to show that I am legitimately asking on their behalf. It won’t be long before your evening is full. Just don’t be that person that uses this tip and then doesn’t bring the client.

Buy coffee for a stranger

Many salespeople and marketers attending HIMSS are measured on the number of “new contacts” garnered from the event. This type of measure encourages booth denizens to aggressively flag down people walking past their booths to try and scan their badge. I admit I used to do this, but it always made me feel slimy. Then one day I stumbled onto a better method when I decided to do a good deed at HIMSS09. I bought a coffee for a total stranger. Seriously.

One morning I decided that I wanted to brighten someone else’s day. I was in line at Starbucks and I just decided to pay for the order of the person who had also just ordered at the register next to me. The gentlemen, who had been in a #HIMSSHaze perked up and smiled. It turned out he was the CIO of mid-sized hospital. We spoke for 15min at the Starbucks and we exchanged cards. I tried it five more times that day and each time I had a great conversation and ended up with a strong connection.

Try it. You’ll be surprised at how effective this is…and you’ll feel amazing having done a good deed.

So there you have it. With just a few days before #HIMSS18 there is still time to do all the things above. Play your cards right at #HIMSS18 (sorry couldn’t resist the Vegas cliché) and you’ll come home with new friends and valuable connections.

See you in Vegas!


Nuance Communications Focuses on Practical Application of AI Ahead of HIMSS18

Posted on January 31, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Is there a hotter buzzword than Artificial Intelligence (AI) right now? It dominated the discussion at the annual RSNA conference late last year and will undoubtedly be on full display at the upcoming HIMSS18 event next month in Las Vegas. One company, Nuance Communications, is cutting through the hype by focusing their efforts on practical applications of AI in healthcare.

According to Accenture, AI in healthcare is defined as:

A collection of multiple technologies enabling machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn so they can perform administrative and clinical healthcare functions. Unlike legacy technologies that are only algorithms/ tools that complement a human, health AI today can truly augment human activity.

One of the most talked about applications of AI in healthcare is in the area of clinical decision support. By analyzing the vast stores of electronic health data, AI algorithms could assist clinicians in the diagnosis of patient conditions. Extending this idea a little further and you arrive in a world where patients talk to an electronic doctor who can determine what’s wrong and make recommendations for treatment.

Understandably there is a growing concern around AI as a replacement for clinician-led diagnosis. This is more than simply fear of losing jobs to computers, there are questions rightfully being asked about the datasets being used to train AI algorithms and whether or not they are truly representative of patient populations. Detractors point to the recent embarrassing example of the “racist soap dispenser” – a viral video posted by Chukwuemeka Afigbo – as an example of how easy it is to build a product that ignores an entire portion of the population.

Nuance Communications, a leading provider of voice and language solutions for businesses and consumers, believes in AI. For years Nuance has been a pioneer in applying natural language processing (NLP) to assist physicians and healthcare workers. Since NLP is a specialized area of AI, it was natural (excuse the pun) for Nuance to expand into the world of AI.

Wisely Nuance chose to avoid using AI to develop a clinical decision support tool – a path they could have easily taken given how thousands use their PowerScribe platform to dictate physician notes. Instead, they focused on applying AI to improve clinical workflow. Their first application is in radiology.

Nuance embedded AI into their radiology systems in three specific ways:

  1. Using AI to help prioritize the list of unread images based on need. Traditionally images are read on a first-in, first-out basis (with the exception being emergency cases). Now an AI algorithm analyzes the patient data and prioritizes the images based on acuity. Thus, images for patients that are more critical rise to the top. This helps Radiologists use their time more effectively.
  2. Using AI to display the appropriate clinical guidelines to the Radiologist based on what’s being read from the image. As information is being transcribed through PowerScribe, the system analyzes the input in real-time and displays the guideline that matches. This helps to drive consistency and saves time for the Radiologist who no longer has to manually look up the guideline.
  3. Using AI to take measurements of lesion growth. Here the system analyzes the image of lesions and determines their size which is then displayed to the Radiologist for verification. This helps save time.

“There is a real opportunity here for us to use AI to not only improve workflows,” says Karen Holzberger, Vice President and General Manager of Diagnostic Solutions at Nuance. “But to help reduce burnout as well. Through AI we can reduce or eliminate a lot of small tasks so that Radiologists can focus more on what they do best.”

Rather than try to use AI to replace Radiologists, Nuance has smartly used AI to eliminate mundane and non-value-add tasks in radiology workflow. Nuance sees this as a win-win-win scenario. Radiologists are happier and more effective in their work. Patients receive better care. Productivity improves the healthcare system as a whole.

The Nuance website states: “The increasing pressure to produce timely and accurate documentation demands a new generation of tools that complement patient care rather than compete with it. Powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, Nuance solutions build on over three decades of clinical expertise to slash documentation time by up to 45 percent—while improving quality by 36 percent.”

Nuance recently doubled-down on AI, announcing the creation of a new AI-marketplace for medical imaging. Researchers and software developers can put their AI-powered applications in the marketplace and expose it to the 20,000 Radiologists that use Nuance’s PowerScribe platform. Radiologists can download and use the applications they want or that they find interesting.

Through the marketplace, AI applications can be tested (both from a technical perspective as well as from a market acceptance perspective) before a full launch. “Transforming the delivery of patient care and combating disease starts with the most advanced technologies being readily available when and where it counts – in every reading room, across the United States,” said Peter Durlach, senior vice president, Healthcare at Nuance. “Our AI Marketplace will bring together the leading technical, research and healthcare minds to create a collection of image processing algorithms that, when made accessible to the wide array of radiologists who use our solutions daily, has the power to exponentially impact outcomes and further drive the value of radiologists to the broader care team.”

Equally important is the dataset the marketplace will generate. With 20,000 Radiologists from organizations around the world, the marketplace has the potential to be the largest, most diverse imaging dataset available to AI researchers and developers. This diversity may be key to making AI more universally applicable.

“AI is a nice concept,” continued Holzberger. “However, in the end you have to make it useful. Our customers have repeatedly told us that if it’s useful AND useable they’ll use it. That’s true for any healthcare technology, AI included.”

LTPAC – A Vibrant Hidden World

Posted on November 20, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

PointClickCare, makers of a cloud-based suite of applications designed for long-term post acute care (LTPAC), recently held its annual user conference (PointClickCare SUMMIT) in sunny Orlando, Florida. The conference quite literally shone a light on the LTPAC world – a world that is often overlooked by those of us that focus on the acute care side of healthcare. It was an eye-opening experience.

This year’s SUMMIT was the largest in the company’s history, attracting over 1,800 attendees from skilled nursing providers, senior living facilities, home health agencies and Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Over the three days of SUMMIT I managed to speak to about 100 attendees and every one of them had nothing but praise for PointClickCare.

“I couldn’t imagine doing my work without PointClickCare. I wouldn’t even know where to start if I had to use paper.”

“I don’t want to go back to the days before we had PointClickCare. We had so much paperwork back then and I used to spend an hour or two after my shift just documenting. Now I don’t have to. I track everything in the system as I go.”

“PointClickCare lets us focus more on the people in our care. We have the ability to do things that would have been impossible if we weren’t on an electronic system. We’re even starting to share data with some of our community partners.”

Contrary to what many believe, not every skilled nursing provider and senior living facility operates with clipboards and fax machines. “That’s one of the biggest misconceptions that people have of the LTPAC market,” says Dave Wessinger, Co-Founder and CTO at PointClickCare. “Almost everyone assumes that LTPAC organizations use nothing but paper or a terrible self-built electronic solution. The reality is that many have digitized their operations and are every bit as modern as their acute care peers.”

According to a recent Black Book survey, 19 percent of LTPAC providers have now adopted some form of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. In 2016, Black Book found the adoption rate was 15 percent. The Office of the National Coordinator recently published a data brief that showed adoption of EHRs by Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) had reached 64% in 2016.

Although these numbers are low compared to the +90% EHR adoption rate by US hospitals, it does indicate that there are many pioneering LTPAC providers that have jumped into the digital world.

“It’s fun to be asked by our clients to work with their acute care partners,” explains BJ Boyle, Director of Product Management at PointClickCare. “First of all, they are surprised that a company like PointClickCare even exists. They are even more surprised when we work with them to exchange health information via CCD.”

Boyle’s statement was one of many during SUMMIT that opened my eyes to the innovative technology ecosystem that exists in LTPAC. Further proof came from the SUMMIT exhibit hall where no less than 72 partners had booths set up.

Among the exhibitors were several that focus exclusively on the LTPAC market:

  • Playmaker. A CRM/Sales solution for post-acute care.
  • Hymark. A technical consultancy that helps LTPAC organizations implement and optimize PointClickCare.
  • Careserv. A LTPAC cloud-hosting and managed services provider.

And some with specialized LTPAC offerings:

  • An app that helps families coordinate the care of their elderly loved ones with senior care facilities.
  • McBee Associates. Financial and revenue cycle consultants that help LTPAC organizations.

I came away from SUMMIT with a newfound respect for the people that work in LTPAC. I also have a new appreciation for the innovative solutions being developed for LTPAC by companies like PointClickCare, and Playmaker. This is a vibrant hidden world that is worth paying attention to.

Note: PointClickCare did cover travel expenses for Healthcare Scene to be able to attend the conference.